In Week 5, our Indianapolis Colts will host the Tennessee Titans. Knowing the party was coming to town this weekend I sat down with Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracles. You can find him on Twitter @jmorrisMCM. We swapped questions about the Colts and Titans and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
You can read my answers to his questions here.
Chris Shepherd: When I fire up 2023 Titans tape and I watch Jeffery Simmons and that defensive line, the first word that comes to mind is “violence” they’re brutal. If you were an offensive coordinator charged with coming up with a game plan to beat the Titans, what does that plan look like? Who are you attacking? What positions are you avoiding (I assume you’re not running up the middle)? Where have offenses succeeded? Where have they failed so far?
Jimmy Morris: I would attack the Titans defense with a quick-hitting passing game. This team defense is built around stopping the run and rushing the passer. They are only giving up 70 yards per game rushing. They haven’t allowed a back to rush for 100 yards against them since week one of the 2022 season. You mentioned Jeffery Simmons. He’s a beast in the middle that clogs up the running game and collapses the pocket in the passing game. It all starts with him, but they have a lot of good player in that defensive front. Denico Autry, who Colts’ fans are familiar with, is one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s good at rushing from pretty much anywhere. They also have Harold Landry and Arden Key on the EDGE. It’s a talented, and as you mentioned violent group up there.
The issue they have had on defense so far has been in the secondary, particularly with the corners. They allowed 289 yards passing per game through the first three weeks. They got back on track last week, but that came against a hobbled Joe Burrow. There have been plays to be had in the passing game. Now, some of that has hopefully been fixed with Kristian Fulton now being back and off of the injury report. He was the guy that got victimized the most in two of the first three games. He missed the second game with the hamstring injury. They need him to be good if they are going to hold up against the pass.
CS: From afar the Titans offense has seemed like a real mixed bag. Against the Browns, Tennessee failed to gain 100 total yards of offense and then a week later against the Bengals, Derrick Henry looked like he was 25 years old again and Ryan Tannehill completed more than 70% of his passes. Even in the first two weeks (when Myles Garrett wasn’t a factor) the offense didn’t feel like it was firing on all cylinders. Why has a team with so many returning veterans seemed to struggle and what do they need to do to look like the offense that played the Bengals, week in and week out?
JM: There are a few factors at play here. In week one, it was Ryan Tannehill. He threw 3 interceptions and also missed two guys wide open down the field on plays that both probably would have been touchdowns had he made a good throw. That gave us a week of people questioning whether it was time to move to one of the young guys or not. The Browns game was a result of terrible offensive line play. The offensive line was the biggest question for us heading into the season. To be fair, they did play that game without rookie first-round pick Peter Skoronski due to an appendectomy and Nicholas Petit-Frere due to a suspension for betting on non-NFL games while at the team facility, but it was mainly left tackle Andre Dillard that was the problem on that day. With the decision last week to lessen the suspension for the betting on non-NFL games at the facility, they get NPF back this week - two weeks earlier than initially expected. It seems like Skoronski will be able to go as well. That will give them the starting 5 they envisioned out there for the first time this year. Now they have to decide if they just pluy Skoronski back in at LG and NPF at RT, or if they are going to shuffle some things and replace Dillard.
The Titans also have a new OC in Tim Kelly. He has done a really nice job so far. Like I said, the narrative there would be very different had Tannehill hit at least one of those two throws in week one. Last week they really seemed to settle into a rhythm for the first time this season. Now they need to prove they can do it with some consistency. That is tough with inconsistent offensive line play. Hopefully that group can start to gel now that everyone is available.
CS: Can you give Colts fans a couple names on either side of the ball, that will have an impact this Sunday that they may not be familiar with?
JM: On offense, the guy is rookie RB Tyjae Spears. The Titans are using him as more than just a third-down back. He gets touches on early downs sometimes when he and Henry are both on the field. In the week two overtime win against the Chargers, Spears got the first carry in OT based on something one of the coaches had seen during the game. He has 40 touches in the first four games, and they haven’t really gotten him involved in the passing game yet.
The defensive group is pretty much all veterans. Sean Murphy-Bunting, who came over as a free agent from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has played well so far. Another free agent signing, ILB Azeez Al-Shaair, had a big game against the Bengals last week. There was a lot of buzz about him in training camp, but he hadn’t done much in the first three games. He’s a solid presence in the middle of the defense.
CS: These two teams will meet again in week 13. What will the Titans team and season look like by December 3rd?
JM: Man, trying to project this team from week to week is tough - much less that many weeks out. What I have said about this team all along is that they are a seven to ten win team. With that being said, looking at the schedule between now and then, I wouldn’t be shocked if they got to that game anywhere from 6-6 to 9-3. It probably only takes 9 or 10 wins to win the AFC South, and I do think the Titans will be in that mix all season long.
CS: As of the time of this writing, Draftkings Sportsbook has the Colts as 1 point underdogs at home this weekend. Is that spread fair and how is this game going to go? What’s the final score?
JM: I think that spread is pretty fair. These teams are probably pretty even with a slight edge going to the Titans in this one with a veteran defense going against a rookie quarterback. I think Mike Vrabel and DC Shane Bowen will come up with enough wrinkles to keep Anthony Richardson, who by the way has been a lot better than I thought he would be this early, confused and force a couple of mistakes. I’ll take Titans 24 Colts 17.
I want to thank Jimmy for taking the time to answer these questions before Sunday’s game but I sure hope he’s wrong about that final score.
As always, go Colts.